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McPhee Ready To Hire Assistants When Gallant Returns At End Of the Month

The next step in the hockey operations process is filling out the Golden Knights coaching staff. Most NHL teams have between three and five coaches in addition to their head coach. The Golden Knights currently have Gerard Gallant as the boss, prior to his signing, the team added Dave Prior as a goalie coach and Wil Nichol as the Director of Player Development.

Now it’s time for Gallant to add a few assistants of his own, and according to George McPhee it won’t be long before he does so.

He’s over at the World Championships with Team Canada at the moment, look forward seeing him at the end of the month and filling out his staff. –George McPhee in interview with TSN 690

The leading candidate for a position is Mike Kelly, Gallant’s former top assistant with both the Florida Panthers and Saint John Sea Dogs.

Dave Barr and Scott Allen were also assistants with the Panthers when Gallant was released. Barr was retained to run the power play for interim head coach Tom Rowe, but was fired when Rowe was demoted in April. Both are possibilities to resurface with the Golden Knights.

Mike Kitchen (Blackhawks), Newell Brown (Coyotes), Doug Lidster (Canucks), Perry Pearn (Canucks), and James Patrick (Stars) are among some of the assistants that were fired from their positions at the conclusion of the season.

It wouldn’t be surprising if the Golden Knights coaching staff wasn’t completely filled until after the Expansion Draft, but McPhee sounds like he’s ready to start bringing coaches on board as soon as Gallant returns from Germany/France and the IIHF Worlds.

Who Waited For Whom, And Why It Took So Long To Bring Gallant On Board

November 27th is a date that will forever live in the mind of new Vegas Golden Knights head coach Gerard Gallant. That’s the day he was let go from the Florida Panthers, paving the way for him to make history in Vegas.

But November 27th was 137 days before The Creator and George McPhee announced the knighting of Gerard Gallant. One has to wonder why it took so long, and more importantly, who caused the holdup.

We felt that we had a process that we wanted to go through, Kelly (McCrimmon) and I had discussed how we wanted to do this. I guess there are three issues why we took our time. First of all we didn’t have any players to coach, so we weren’t in a rush to have a coach, and we had so many other things to do. We had to get our priorities in order and take care of some of other things before we got to the coach. The second thing is when you have time in this business you use it. We needed every bit of it. The third reason was there were some people who had requested we talk to them at the end of their seasons. So, we went through the entire process. We did it the way we wanted to, and it worked out very well for us. We got the right person for this team and we did it in the timeline we set for it. -George McPhee

And what did it look like from Gallant’s point of view?

The first time I talked to George about it was probably in mid-December, he gave me a call and asked if I had any interest. I said definitely I had a lot of interest in it. Then I did an interview in mid-January and I flew out here for two days and we met for 3-4 hours with him and Kelly McCrimmon, Misha Donskov, and the owner. From that point on we talked about once every two weeks about the job and the process he was going through to hire his new coach. It was good, it was a long process but it was real good and it was everything I expected when we talked. -Gallant on Hockey Central at Noon

Gallant’s initial interview happened in January. Right around the time rumors started to fly that the Golden Knights may move up their coach hiring. Then, they didn’t, and here we are now, with the same guy that caused the rumors in the first place behind the bench?

When we met him we really liked him and there was an inclination to maybe do this right now because there’s some risk in waiting. But we wanted to be able to come here today and say ‘you know what, we did this right, it was a comprehensive exhaustive process and we took our time and we got the right guy.’ I talked to Gerard about two weeks ago and said when the season ends this is going to happen fast. We have one other person to talk to and when we get through that we will know exactly what we are doing. Throughout the process we kept coming back to Gerard and we felt like he was the right guy, and on Monday night we said, you know what, he’s the guy, let’s go. –McPhee to the Rink Rats

Gerard in the mean time was scooping up interviews himself.

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Gallant’s The Right Man Today, But Will He Still Be In Four Years?

The Vegas Golden Knights got it right on their first coaching hire. GM George McPhee described Gerard Gallant as an honest man and a good leader. The Creator looked like a proud Papa approving who his GM brought home to dinner (I’ll go along with the analogy, but I still think Ken is weird). Yesterday’s introductory press conference was another big moment for the franchise. Gallant’s hiring is a sign in the right direction, but that certainly doesn’t mean there’s room for concern.

My main apprehension with Gallant’s hiring is his strong emphasis on player size. Of course, every team needs to play physical, intimidating hockey but to what extent?

I think it’s harder to build a team that plays a power game the way you built L.A. and the way Boston was. It’s almost easier based on today’s players to build a team that plays faster, that can attack faster offensively but also can attack defensively. -Kevin Weeks, NHL Network

Pittsburgh is the clear example of a team built for today’s pace of game. The Penguins are one of the smallest and least physical teams and yet won the Stanley cup on speed and pressure. And it’s not just the reigning champs. Other teams are evolving to match the speed and pressure of top NHL teams. LA fired Daryl Sutter and his dedication to big, physical play to adopt a more balanced roster. Heck, Florida sent Gallant packing (literally) from Florida for this very reason.

Gallant mentioned multiple times yesterday that size was important to the style of play he coaches.

We wanted to develop a team and build a team that was fast, could move the puck quickly, pressure the puck in all three zones. Gerard and I talked about it. He said he wanted a little bit more size, and we just decided to go in a different direction. Were we on the same page every day of the week? No … philosophy was different. -Tom Rowe, Florida Panthers

If you look at NHL teams average height and weight, you’ll notice it doesn’t necessarily win games. Especially, this season. Scroll through friend of the site and spectacular columnist James Mirtle’s size chart. You’ll notice some of the biggest teams spit the bit this season. Colorado, Winnipeg, Los Angeles, Dallas and Buffalo were all in the top five in either weight or height. Playoff teams Pittsburgh, Chicago, Montreal, Ottawa and Boston are all in the bottom percentile of the league in both body measurements. 

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Gerrard Gallant Named First Coach In Vegas Golden Knights History

Despite the fact that there won’t be an official “knighting” ceremony, former Panthers head coach Gerard Gallant is now Sir Gallant, the first head coach in Vegas Golden Knights history.

There is a great deal of excitement in the hockey community regarding what is happening with the Golden Knights and I am glad to now be a part of the team. We have a state-of-the-art practice facility being constructed, a world class home arena and from what I’ve heard, a very passionate and engaged fan base. I look forward to seeing that enthusiasm first hand and will work with George and the rest of the hockey operations staff to ice a team that Golden Knights fans will be proud to support. -Gallant in Golden Knights Press Release

Gallant was fired just 22 games into the season with the Florida Panthers with the reason cited as “philosophical differences.” Most believed it was due to disagreements over the use of analytics in deciding ice time and playing style, but Gallant denied that a few weeks after being let go.

Prior to his gig with the Panthers, Gallant spent four years as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. That was widely considered an unsuccessful tenure, which led Gerard to take a job QMJHL with the Saint John Sea Dogs. Gallant led the Sea Dogs to back to back titles and went on to win the Memorial Cup as well in 2011. This renaissance thrust Gallant back on to the scene.

One of the key players on his Memorial Cup winning team was a big reason why Gallant found himself standing behind an NHL bench once again. The Panthers selected Jonathan Huberdeau with the 3rd overall pick in 2011. Gallant was instrumental in getting Huberdeau that far, and then was able to reunite with him in the NHL in 2014.

The saga surrounding Gallant’s release in Florida made international headlines, as did these two pictures (1 and 2). Following a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh, Gallant was fired and left to take a taxi with assistant coach Mike Kelly (remember that name) who was released as well. But the oddity doesn’t end there. Normally when coaches are fired following an NHL game, it’s done immediately following the game and the media never gets a chance to speak to the coach. Well that was not the case with Gallant. However, no local media traveled from Miami to this particular game in North Carolina, so the Panthers allowed Gallant to speak to a few AP writers before making him aware of his release. The whole story is broken down in this excellent article from CaneCountry.com. It says a lot about the state of the Florida Panthers organization, but also about what kind of person the Golden Knights just hired.

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Where There’s Smoke, There’s Gallant

The Creator confirmed live on the air of Fox Sports 1340, the new radio home of the Vegas Golden Knights, that the team will announce their head coach tomorrow at noon.

Instantly the rumor mill starting spinning at a mile a minute, and pretty much landed on one name… Gerard Gallant.

The Vegas Golden Knights are expected to name their first ever head coach on Thursday, and it’s expected to be Gerard Gallant. –Ryan McKenna, SportsNet

Gallant was fired from the Florida Panthers after just 22 games. He fits the bill that McPhee has been looking for in a players coach.

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Stop It! Darryl Sutter Isn’t Coming To Vegas

Well, I guess we must go through this again. The same darn conversations followed Claude Julien’s release in Boston. Now, it’s Darryl Sutter, a two-time Stanley Cup winning coach getting the axe in LA. The writing was on the wall for Sutter and now another strong candidate is open to talk with George McPhee. Before we speculate Sutter’s direction, let’s just cut the cord now. Darryl Sutter will not be the head coach of the Vegas Golden Knights.

I feel like I’m that negative uncle you see a few times a year and he’s always just a complete asshat. You know, when you introduce the girl of your dreams and Uncle Sour comments out loud that the last girlfriend was hotter. That’s how I feel. I’m here to deflate people’s excitement, and it sucks, but every once in a while Uncle Sour’s pessimistic brain says something that sticks with you. Let’s hope this is that.

The first and most important reason the Golden Knights won’t hire Sutter is the price tag. The Kings paid the Cup winning coach $3M a year. His starting price is already too pricey for The Creator. With the abundance of jobs and the Babcock trickle-down effect, Sutter could easily make upwards of $4M a season. He will not be offered that much in Las Vegas.

“That’s probably a lot for us. I’ll tell you what we really want. George McPhee’s going to make the call. My call is going to be, is this a guy I can work with feel comfortable with. All the people we have in this organization keep their egos in check they are about winning hockey games or making a successful business. -The Creator on 2/10/17

That’s not enough? You could call Sutter a late bloomer of some sorts. His last five and a half seasons behind the bench were much more successful than his previous 12. Sutter finally tasted the celebration champagne and he’s not ready to rinse his flute. The Golden Knights will not be in position to make a run until Sutter is past 60 years-old. I’m not trying to age-shame anybody but let’s face it, not many coaches over the age of 60 go on to win the Cup. And just stop right now screaming the name Scotty Bowman into your phone as you read this. It’s Scotty effing Bowman for crying out loud, the man is a God D*** legend, and even for him winning at 68 years-old is an amazing story. Badger Bob Johnson was the only other coach to win the cup after 60 in the past 50 years. My point is Sutter won’t wait until he’s collecting Social Security to compete again. Here’s a text Sutter sent last year to Sportsnet’s Elliot Friedman before he signed his extension with LA. He doesn’t sound like a coach looking to develop a franchise. 

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McPhee Drops More Hints On Coaching Search

During Monday’s season ticket holder conference call, GM George McPhee sounded like a man who’s impatiently waiting for late June.

We’ll be ready for the expansion draft and the entry draft. In fact I think we’re ready now.. -George McPhee, General Manager

If you missed it or aren’t quite rich enough to have fancy pants season tickets, check out the SinBin.vegas Twitter timeline as Ken live-tweeted out the full conference call. Without giving too much away, McPhee gave a few notes of interest, especially, an answer to a coaching question. We still stand by Jack Capuano as the front-runner and his comment leads us again to the former Islanders coach.

Let’s get to the hidden information McPhee might’ve tried to slip by us. On a question about finding the Golden Knights first head coach. The GM stated he wants a coach that knows the present-day players, rules and styles. Most importantly, here’s the big clue, he also would like to hire someone he knows.

We want someone who is very current on the game, who’s progressive. I’ve had the opportunity to work with lots of coaches in the NHL. Had great experiences in the world championships working with several NHL coaches. So, we know who’s out there. We decided way back in August, that we were going to take our time and interview along the way. – GM George McPhee

McPhee said it, he’s worked with a lot of NHL coaches. Here’s the list:

CoachWhen With McPheeCurrently WithTenureRecord
Ron WilsonWSH Head Coach (1997-2002)N/A410 Games192-159-51
Bruce CassidyWSH Head Coach (2002-2004)Boston (Interim)110 Games47-47-9
Randy CarlyleWSH Assistant Coach (2002-2004)Anaheim (HC)164 Games64-75-18
Glen HanlonWSH Head Coach (2003-2008)GM Vancouver Giants (WHL)239 Games79-122-9
Bruce BoudreauWSH Head Coach (2008-2012)Minnesota (HC)329 Games208-104-40
Jack CapuanoNYI Head Coach (2015) *Only Season McPhee w/New YorkN/A82 Games45-27-10
Doug WeightSr. Advisor to GM and Isles Asst. Coach (2015)New York Islanders (Interim)29 Games16-9-4
Bill PetersIIHF Team Canada Head Coach (2014-Pres)Carolina (HC)164 Games65-72-27
Dave CameronIIHF Team Canada Assistant Coach (2014-2016)Calgary (Asst)137 Games70-50-17
Mike YeoIIHF Team Canada Assistant CoachSt. Louis (HC)370 Games187-139-44

As you can see, McPhee has worked with plenty of NHL head coaches past and present. Cassidy, Carlyle, Boudreau, Weight, Peters and Yeo are all current NHL head coaches. Capuano was fired earlier this season, and Cameron was let go after last season. Hanlon and Wilson haven’t been NHL head coaches in some time so it’s safe to eliminate them. Carlyle, Boudreau and Yeo are all safely employed. Which leaves Capuano, Cassidy, Weight, Peters and Cameron.

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Don’t Hate Too Much On Cappy

This week we got a surprisingly bad reaction from fans regarding the coaching direction of the Golden Knights. The Creator’s “unwillingness” to overpay for Claude Julien started a conversation about financial commitment. Some even went as far as to call him cheap. Let’s clear something up, the man is about to finish to paying off $500 million for an NHL team, he’s not cheap. But fans are getting nervous that The Creator won’t do everything he can do to win hockey games. When he said $4.5 million for Julien was too much for Vegas, fans took that as not being fully invested.

If Vegas chooses a coach like Jack Capuano or Gerard Gallant fans are going to voice themselves. The Creator is realistic, the organization is committed to the future. Passing on a big name coach isn’t a sign of cheapness, it’s a sign of a responsible approach eyeing that future rather than instant gratification.

I’ve written about Capuano’s fit in Las Vegas, but he’s not a popular among fans. Here’s a comment from SinBin.vegas on Capuano back in late November.

Take Capuano, please. Take his assistants, too. They make no adjustments. They have ruined more players (high draft picks) than they have developed. The GM might be part of that, too but playing time & in game is on the coach. They have stopped playing hard, and for the past two plus seasons, I have never seen so many late goals (both end of periods & games) given up in 45 years of watching hockey. I will drive him to the airport if you want. -pfh64

 

Many people think Capuano underachieved in New York. Complaints are he cannot develop talent and won’t use analytics to assist his decisions. All are very good reasons to be down on a potential Vegas coach. However, is that really Jack Capuano? Or is that what you say about a coach who was just fired?

I’m here to tell you, he isn’t anything like the comment above, and the countless others we’ve received on social media.  Let me try and quiet the storm in Las Vegas. Here’s how Jack Capuano compares to other available coaches.

 Jack CapuanoClaude JulienKen HitchcockLindy Ruff
Seasons as HC6142119
W-L227-192538-332781-474724-542
Win %.536.603.606.562
Playoff Appearances481410
Playoff Record10-1461-4786-8266-54
Playoff %.417.560.512.550
Stanley Cups0110
Key PlayersTavares, HalakBrodeur, Chara, ThomasModano, Nieuwendyk, Belfour, HullHasek, Satan, Peca
 Jack CapuanoDan BylsmaGerard GallantJon Cooper
Seasons as HC6865
W-L227-192310-176152-140172-114
Win %.536.624.518.591
Playoff Appearances4613
Playoff Record10-1443-352-425-25
Playoff %.417.551.333.500
Stanley Cups0100
Key PlayersTavares, HalakCrosby, MalkinJagr, Nash, Ekblad, LuongoStamkos, Bishop, St. Louis, Hedman

 

Here’s a breakdown of Capuano vs. the more experienced coaches in their first six seasons behind the bench.

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Cross Off Claude, Julien All But Out For Vegas

Last March, the Toronto Maple Leafs handsomely paid Mike Babcock $6.25 million per year to be their head coach; an offer Babcock couldn’t refuse. In the process of getting a monster raise, Babcock rewarded his fellow NHL coaches by inflating the market. Now coaches are waiting their turn to cash in. Say a guy like Claude Julien.

When you make these decisions, you better have a guy in line that’s better than that guy. There’s not many, I can tell you that. He’s a hell of a coach. –Mike Babcock on Boston firing Claude Julien

Many believe Julien will demand a salary as high as $4-5 million per year. Which made me wonder, would Vegas be willing to pay the going rate for Claude?

The answer is no.

Ken and I had a chance to catch up with The Creator during the Mandarin Oriental Rooster trade event, and after our conversation, I can officially cross Julien’s name off the list. It’s no longer speculation, Claude Julien will not be the Golden Knights first coach. It was clear immediately when I asked directly about the financial aspect of the hiring. I first asked if he would pay top dollar, to which he instantly said yes. I added, four to five million? And the answer speaks for itself.

That’s probably a lot for us.

I’ll tell you what we really want. George McPhee’s going to make the call. My call is going to be, is this a guy I can work with feel comfortable with. All the people we have in this organization keep their egos in check they are about winning hockey games or making a successful business. -The Creator

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Boston Fires Julien, Next Stop Vegas?

What seemed inevitable finally became a reality this morning, and everything the Golden Knights have said to be looking for is now available in one 58-year old Canadian package.

Former Stanley Cup and Jack Adams award (best coach) winner Claude Julien was fired by the Boston Bruins after nine and a half seasons in Beantown. The Bruins made the playoffs in each of Julien’s first seven seasons behind the bench before coming up three points short last year.

I could go on and on about the wonders of this guy’s career, but I’m pretty sure that’s why they made this Wikipedia thing everyone keeps telling me about. Instead, let’s look at it from the Vegas perspective. If you look back through the history of what George McPhee has been saying he wants running the show here in Vegas, he’s basically described Julien without ever saying his name.

Experienced, a guy the hockey community knows, fits the culture, and someone who they do not have to evaluate. Julien also brings one more aspect that no one would ever admit is necessary, legitimacy.

When the Golden Knights became a reality they were met with critics from all over the world (especially Canada). Then they hired George McPhee, then Kelly McCrimmon, and eventually added David Conte, Scott Luce, Misha Donskov, and a bunch more top level scouts and operations guys that has hockey insiders unanimously claiming Vegas has done remarkably well putting together its first front office. But hockey fans aren’t that easily convinced. Many have heard of McPhee, but the rest of the names on that list aren’t exactly high profile to your everyday working Joe.

Claude Julien is.

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